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Chapter 15
Dr. John Brenner
• Sociologist concentrate on the social
 aspects of religion
  – Characteristics common of all religions
  – Ways in which people justify any kind of
  – This chapter looks at Afghanistan with a look
    at the rise of the Taliban and the workings of
    the al-Qaida
  – Religion has little to do with terrorism

• Osama bin Laden is leader of a loose
  group called al-Qaida
• It has members in over 60 countries but
  were based in Afghanistan—in 2001 Bush
  said to Taliban
    • Close all terrorist camps, turn over al-Qaida
      members and give USA access to camps
    • Taliban refused so USA began bombing

• We examine religion for a sociological
  – Social aspects of religion
  – Functions and dysfunctions of religion
  – Ways religion shapes people’s behavior and
    understanding of the world
  – Ways in which religion is intertwined into the
    social, economic and political issues
What is Religion

• Weber’s concepts
    • Religion encompasses those human responses that
      give meaning to the ultimate and inescapable
      problems of existence—birth, death, illness,
      suffering, tragedy, and injustice
    • Religion is the human response with endless
    • No single definition could capture the essence of
What is Religion
• Durkheim’s view
  – ―there are no religions which are false‖
  – All address human problems in there own way
  – To study religion we rid ourselves of
    preconceived notions of what religion should
  – We can not attribute to religion our own
    values—do not make judgments of things like
    hijab or modest dress for Muslim women
Beliefs about Sacred/Profane

• Sacred—everything that is considered
 extraordinary and inspires in believers
 deep and absorbing sentiments of awe.
 Respect, mystery and reverence
    • Objects—sacred documents, books, chalices
    • Living creatures, Elements of nature, Places
    • Days, abstract forces, persons, states of
     consciousness, past events, ceremonies, and
       – Offer symbolic power and emotions for believers
Beliefs about Sacred/Profane

• Sacramental religions
     • Followers seek the sacred in places, objects, and
       actions believed to house a god or a spirit
     • Like Native Spirituality
• Prophetic religions
     • Sacred revolves around items that symbolize
       significant historical events or around the lives,
       teachings and writings of great people
     • Includes great people and sacred books—Christian
       Bible, Muslim Koran and Jewish Torah
Beliefs about Sacred/Profane

• The great people and great books reveal a
  ―higher state of being or ―the way‖ that
  are a set of ethical principles
• Best known prophetic religions
     • Judaism—revealed to Abraham and Moses
     • Confucianism founded by Confucius
     • Christianity founded by Jesus Christ
     • Islam founded my Muhammad
Beliefs about Sacred/Profane

• Ethical principals are the Ten
 Commandments for Christians and ―the
 five pillars of Islam‖—some of these are
     • Declaration of faith—no god but Allah and
       Muhammad is his messenger
     • Obligatory prayer—5 times a day
     • Alms giving—to help the poor and sick
     • A pilgrimage to Mecca known as Haij
Beliefs about Sacred/Profane

• Mystical religions
     • Followers seek the sacred in states of being that
       can exclude all awareness of one’s existence,
       sensations, thoughts and surroundings
     • Earthly existence may be transcended
     • Fasting and celibacy may be used to detach from
       this world
     • Meditate to clear their minds
     • Buddhism and philosophical Hinduism are two
Beliefs about Sacred/Profane

• Profane—anything not sacred—unholy,
 irreverent, contemptuous or blasphemous
  – People often take precautions to avoid
    contact with the profane
  – This would be like not taking God’s
    name in vein or for women must cover
    her hair or face during worship or man
    should remove his hat when entering a
    house of worship
• Rules of how people should act when in
 the presence of the sacred to achieve an
 acceptable state
    • May be acceptable dress, songs, prayers or chants
    • Closing one's eyes or bowing head during prayer
    • Taliban had a code of conduct that women should
      be covered from head to toe when in public,
      should not leave their homes, and destroyed tape
      recorders, cassettes, toys and car radios as un-
Community of Worshipers

• Church
    • Group of people who have the same beliefs about
      sacred and profane, behave in similar ways to
      sacred and profane, and gather in body or spirit at
      agreed-on times
    • Religion is inseparable from the idea of church
    • The gathering and sharing creates a moral
      community and allow worshipers to share a
      common identity
Community of Worshipers

• Ecclesiae
     • Professionally trained religious organization
       governed by a hierarchy of leaders that claims
       everyone in society as members
     • Strong relationship between church and state
     • Anglican Church in England; Roman Catholic in
       France; Lutheran in Sweden and Islam in
     • Claims to be the one true faith and does not
       recognize others
Community of Worshipers

• Denominations
    • Hierarchical organizations in a society where the
      church and state remain separate
    • You would have many religious organizations here
    • Eight major religious denominations: Buddhism,
      Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam,
      Judaism, Taoism and Shinto.
Community of Worshipers

• Sect
  – Small community of believers led by a lay
    ministry with no formal hierarchy or official
    governing body to oversee it
  – Typically have broken away from a
  – Took place in Islam 30 years after the death
    of the prophet Muhammad
Community of Worshipers
• Islam’s issue over successor to Prophet
  – Shia—through blood relative of Muhammed
     • Supported Ali—first cousin and son-in-law to Muhammed
     • Represents the dominant religion in Iran (95%)
  – Sunni—selected by community of believers
     • Selected Abu-Bakr as caliph (successor)
     • Dominates in Pakistan (77%) and Afghanistan (84%)
  – Both called established sects now
Community of Worshipers
• Sects
     • Christian churches have split
     • Eastern Orthodox churches rejected the pope as
       earthy deputy of Christ and papal power
     • Roman Catholic churches were splinted further by
       Martin Luther’s denunciation of practices creating
       the Lutheran Church
     • Many division with many different churches
• People are not born into sects they
Community of Worshipers
• Cults
  – Very small, loosely organized, charismatic
    leader, who uses personal qualities to attract
    members—it usually dissolves after death of
    the leader
  – Few become established religions
     • Draw members by focusing on highly specific and
       eccentric interests—UFO’s
     • Need for companionship draws converts, or cure
       illness, offer enlightenment or relief from suffering
Critique of Durkheim
• Beliefs about the sacred, profane, rituals,
  and a community of worshippers
  – People can come together for other reasons in
    a society
  – People come together for a war, for a cause,
    movie stars or rock stars
• Any set of beliefs and rituals, relating to
  people which are understood in some
  transcendental fashion—civil religion
Civil Religion
• A nations beliefs and rituals can be this
• Cold War
     • Political and military tension between U.S. and
       U.S.S.R. from 1945 to 1989—arms race
     • Each supported opposing nations
     • Proxy wars—Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan
     • U.S. wanted to contain communism and spread
       capitalism and democracy
     • U.S.S.R. was blocking ―counterrevolution‖ and
       aiding international wars of national liberation
Americans and Muslims
in Cold War
• Afghanistan—landlocked, 2/3
 mountainous, with China, Iran, Pakistan
 and 3 Soviet republics on the border
    • U.S.S.R. sent troops in there in 1979 and put their
      leader in power
    • U.S. supported resistance, mujahidin, funneling
      money through Pakistan who with the help of CIA
      recruited radical Muslims to fight
    • 35,000 came to study in madrassas (religious
Americans and Muslims
in Cold War
• U.S.-supported recruiting and military
 centers became al-Qaida (the base)
     • Osama bin Laden became leader in 1989
        – Called for fatwas or religious ruling condemning Saudi
          Arabia for having non-Muslims in holy nation
        – Request was denied and he had Saudi Arabian
          citizenship removed
        – Has attacked the U.S. in 1993 World Trade Center
          bombing, U.S. soldiers attacked in Somalia, U.S.
          embassies, and 1998 USS Cole
Americans and Muslims
in Cold War
• Both sides in the cold war used sacred and
  profane concepts
• Durkheim’s characteristics of religion can
  be applied to other events, relationships
  and forces in a society
• Still his theory is widely used and
Functionalist Perspective
• As long as humans have lived—religion
 has served vital social functions
    • 1. For individuals facing uncertainty
    • 2. Doctrine and rituals help them deal with
      meaning of life and death
    • 3. Gives a higher purpose to life
    • 4. Offers hope, as Afghan people needed after
      suffering from U.S.S.R. and civil wars
    • 5. Helps to achieve a positive outcome (health)
    • 6. Inner strength for the individual
Functionalist Perspective
• Religion functions to promote group unity
 and solidarity
  – 1. Shared doctrine gives emotional bonds to
  – 2. Offers proper rituals for daily living
  – 3. Helps to establish, reinforce and renew
    social relationships
  – 4. Stabilizing force in times of social
    disturbances and change
Society as a Worship Object
• People play a fundamental role in
 determining the sacred and profane
    • How to act in presence of sacred
    • Worship what their ancestors created
  Real object of worship is society itself
   1. People deprived of interactions with others
   suffer deprivation
   2. According to Durkheim reality and personal
   identity is from the society
Critique of Functionalism
• Religion is not a strictly integrating force
     • Long history of wars between religions
     • Religion has destructive forces on society
  – Afghanistan had difficulties due to terrain and
    for any tribal chief to control the country
     • Taliban with Pakistani government help
       consolidated 90% of the country
     • Brought order to chaos but also brought
       amputations, public hangings, punishment of
       women---thus not integrative in a positive way
Conflict View
• From Marx’s view
  – Religion turns people away from issues of economic
    and political power
     • It is the opiate (drug or sedative) to keep the people from
        questioning authority
      • Focuses on repressive, constraining, exploitive aspects
      • Encourages the oppressed to accept their plight and inhibits
        protest and revolution
      • Taliban restricted the population, especially women
Conflict View
• Religion inspires inequality
  – Taliban placed severe restrictions on female
    dress, employment, and access to education
  – Christians use religion to justify the
    enslavement of others
  – Political leaders use religion to unite a
    population for war
  – Religious leaders use disasters to blame
    others and support their own causes
Critique of Conflict Theory
• Religion does not always oppress others
    • The oppressed have looked to religion for help
    • Liberation Theology seeks assist the poor to get
      social justice and advocates raising consciousness
      of the people
    • Yinger states that 2 conditions are needed
       – Government or other organization fails to meet the
         needs of the people
       – Society becomes polarized around issues of class, ethnic
         or racial groups—disenfranchised join groups and
         features of new religion give them a sense of separation
Critique of Conflict Theory
• Two examples of how religion was used to
 create an organization
  – Nation of Islam—started by W. D. Farad and
    later replaced by Elijah Mohammed
     • Preached that the Blacks had had Muslim religion
       taken from them by evil whites
     • Success was through self-help, discipline and
     • Followers received an X to replace their slave
Critique of Conflict Theory

• African-American Churches
  – Reached out to the millions who felt they
    were excluded from the system
  – Were active in the Civil Rights Movement
  – Some state the rights movement would not
    have taken place except for the active support
    of the African-American Churches
Max Weber-Economics/Religion
• Modern Capitalism
    • He studied major religions coming to the
     conclusion that the Protestant Ethic as proposed
     by Calvin emphasized this-world asceticism
       – God determines and directs activities
       – Calvinists did not indulge in the fruits of their labor
       – Predestination meant that your destiny was
       – Thus adherents looked for signs of God’s favor—
         economic success—accumulation of wealth
       – This lead to a support for capitalism that was not found
         in other religions

• Process by which religious influences on
 thought and behavior are reduced
     • Science and technology assume roles once filled by
     • Muslims feel that secularism in a Western-imposed
  – Subjective secularization—decrease in the
    number of people who view their place in the
    world from a religious perspective
• A belief in the timeless nature of sacred
 writings and a belief that the writings
 apply to all kinds of environments
     • Moral Majority in U.S.
     • Orthodox Jews in Israel
     • Islamic groups in Middle East
  – Fundamentalism is often seen as relics from
    the past and/or threaten the interests of the
• It is complex
  – Do believe in a relationship with God, Allah or
    power provides personal and social answers
  – Caplan—traits of fundamentalism
        –   Authority and truth of sacred writings
        –   History as a decline from an original ideal
        –   Do not separate sacred and profane in daily life
        –   Usually emerge as a reaction to some threat
        –   Need to reverse the trend towards gender equality as
            seen a declining moral order
• Esposito’s view
  – Fundamentalist is a Protestant term implying literal
    interpretation of the Bible
  – Islamic revitalism or Islamic Activism--his term for
    Muslim fundamentalism
        – People felt that the political, economic and social systems had
        – Disenchantment with the West
        – Quest for identity and authenticity
        – Islam seen as providing a self-sufficient ideology and a valid
          alternative to nationalism, socialism or capitalism

• Esposito notes that
     • Muslim countries were carved up after World War I
     • When Israel was created, the Arab armies were all
     • Oil wealth and modernization increased the gulf
       between populations along with urbanization
     • Oil rich and poor countries were further separated
     • Islam was seen as the alternative vision for society
• Five beliefs guide Islamic activists
  – Islam is a comprehensive way of life
  – Muslim societies fall apart when they depart
    from Islamic ways
  – Islamic social and political revolution is
  – Islamic law should replace Western law
  – Science and technology should be used in
    ways to reflect Islamic values